Applications to participate in The Rotary Community Garden of Bonita Springs, the first community garden of its kind in South Lee County, are now available. “Winners” of the 13 available plots will be chosen from a random drawing to be held September 7 at the YMCA of Bonita Springs, 27200 Kent Road. Each winner will receive one year’s use of either a 3’ x 10 or 4’ x 10 raised garden plot, soil, seeds and access to water in the fenced community garden located at the YMCA. While seeds will be provided, members may also bring their own plants and are encouraged to purchase healthy plants from local nurseries or start seedlings on their own at home. The annual cost for a garden plot is $50.00. Applicants must be residents of Bonita Springs.
The garden is being made possible by the two Bonita Springs Rotary clubs – the morning club and the noon club. The garden is adjacent to the YMCA soccer fields, just outside the fitness room facility windows. It will include a total of 13 raised garden beds and two smaller children’s garden areas, a shaded work area and shed. The Rotary clubs will begin building the garden in mid-September, available for planting around October 1st.
“The goal of the garden is to provide a sustainable gardening nexus where residents can grow their own fresh vegetables and herbs in a safe environment.” said committee co-chair, Mary Shallies. “We will provide everything a member needs to get started – the garden members just need to tend to their plot throughout the year, taking care to weed, irrigate and check for pests, as needed. Garden members are also required to donate a few volunteer hours a year to the general upkeep of the garden area.”
Gardening classes will be offered by area gardeners and others with an interest in promoting community gardening in Lee County. Roy Beckford with the University of Florida Lee County Extension Office has lent the office’s support to the project, stating in a written letter “we are committed to the establishment of the Rotary Community Garden of Bonita Springs and believe that the goals are congruent with the goals of the UF/IFAS in promoting an environment that fosters and supports sustainable and comprehensive approaches to education and wellness especially as it pertains to the inclusion and integration of green and plantable open spaces.”
In addition to the Rotary clubs, several area businesses and organizations are helping make the garden a reality. The YMCA of Bonita Springs is donating the land, water and electricity for the garden. Home Depot of Bonita Springs and Naples are donating the lumber for the beds. Forestry Resources is donating ground cover. Seeds are being donated by High Mowing Organic Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange and Driftwood Garden Center in Estero, as well as a banner sign for the garden which was donated by Monarch Marketing Services.
In addition to partnering with the YMCA of Bonita Springs, the garden has teamed up with the Bonita Springs Assistance Office, which translated the applications into Spanish and are helping spread the word to assure their clients are aware of the garden opportunity. “The garden will allow clients that we work with who cannot always afford fresh produce, to grow their own food and feed their families. This is what makes the garden such a special, healthy addition to the community,” said Assistance Office President, Maribel Slabaugh.
The eventual goal of the Rotary clubs is to turn the operations of the garden over to a gardening committee consisting of interested community members with an annual commitment by the clubs to provide a donation toward upkeep of the garden.